Off the court: my journey as a LeBron fan

How my support of LeBron James taught me resilience

Iman Malik

I’ve been through a lot in my life. When I was eight years old, I moved to a new state. When I was eleven, I tore my ACL and was told I could never play sports again. And last year, I fell victim to the extreme stress brought on by being a student at MVHS. But nothing in my life has been more difficult than being a LeBron fan.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past decade, LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. After being drafted into the NBA straight out of high school, he has gone on to win three NBA championships and four MVP awards. His accomplishments have changed what it means to excel at a sport.

But those things didn’t matter as much to me. Even at age five, when most little kids look up to someone because of how talented they are, I looked for something different. In fact, it is the hope and inspiration LeBron provided to me at that age that made him one of my heroes. His rags to riches story was more spectacular than anyone else’s because of how far he was able to come. His hard work and talent were proof that anything was possible. But most of all, he taught me that nothing in life is given, and everything is earned.

Even off the court, LeBron was more of a hero to me than anyone else. He never let the fame go to his head. Despite making a worldwide impact, LeBron has never forgotten his humble beginnings in his hometown of Akron, Ohio – he gives back to thousands of underrepresented youth across America with the goal of making their paths to success easier than his.

Growing up in California, supporting LeBron was almost always viewed as a sin. It was because of him that local teams like the Warriors didn’t stand a chance of winning a championship. His sheer dominance in the basketball scene created a sense of loathing amongst my classmates, but since LeBron wasn’t there to receive their hate, I took it upon myself to defend his honor.

In sixth grade, when I wore my Miami Heat jersey to class, the entire class booed me until the teacher finally told them to quiet down. I was called a bandwagon and a fake fan only because I supported the winning team. But my admiration for LeBron is what made me resilient. I knew that he was the best, and that was impossible to deny.  

Every time he switched teams, I bought a jersey to match. My closet floor – the home of souvenirs from my past – is littered with posters, bags, and old t-shirts emblazoned with his trademark crown logo. And even though his career has begun to reach its inevitable decline, he still inspires me the same way he did when I was a little girl.

Sometimes backing down felt like the easier option. But I knew that’s not what LeBron would do. Everyone criticized his decisions to switch teams – the press, haters and even fans. But I knew that believing in something meant standing by it no matter what. So when the insults became personal and the jeers became louder, I did what he would do – I held my head high and continued to move forward.